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Climate was invoked to explain the different-toned races. Descendants of Adam in hot regions were blackened by the local climate. Just as an individual grows darker by exposure to the sun, so a tribe grows darker after generations of such exposure.


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The skin of the African was in fact a darkened skin— colored would become the standard term—that had once been white when the tribe had migrated from the Middle East. Those in cooler regions retained their primordial white skin. And those in temperate regions like the Mediterranean were in between. Although the details are obscure, many believed that as women were more attracted to the darker skin of their mates, they psychically influenced the lives in their wombs so they were born darker still.

The French philosopher Montesquieu — used climate to explain everything from courage to cunning, from the tendency toward alcoholism to a preference for different religious practices. This encouraging view of human unity could have given birth to a paradigm of human equality if Christians had not understood human diversity within the racist imperialism of Western Europe.

This unshakeable, deeply rooted, racial prejudice led Christians to interpret the distinctive African, Asian, Indian, and American races as deteriorations rather than variations of a superior white race. Humans may all be biologically related but some of the distant cousins had serious problems.

The hot sun not only made the Negro darker; it made him lazy and stupid as well. The belief that Adam was the biological father of a human race baked by the sun into different tribes was known as monogenesis , for its rejection of separate creations of the different tribes. Abolitionists embraced this view, as it undermined—but did not refute—arguments that some tribes were different in ways that justified enslaving them.

And while the influential climate hypothesis was speculative at best, with no supporting evidence—beyond the observation that people in Ethiopia were darker than those in England—it was a serious attempt to explain how the world encountered by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Christians had changed so much since God created it. The climate hypothesis preserved the veracity of scripture and the doctrine of original sin, but it was hard to square with the facts. Critics noted that identical climates did not always produce identical skin tones.

South America had no dark-skinned natives despite having a similar climate to that of Africa. This view seems like a reasonable extrapolation of the creation story that undergirded eighteenth-century explanations of the flora and fauna of the planet. God could have placed different tribes—and plants and animals—in different locations. European encounters with other tribes, however, led to racist comparisons, and polygenesis fed this tendency in the worst way by providing a natural, divinely ordained template with which to rank the races. Scientific perspectives, unfortunately, supported racist rankings well into the twentieth century.

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If God created separate races, would it not be wrong to undermine the separation? Such thinking led to volatile discussions of racial mixing and purity of bloodlines. The relationship between Adam and the races that either coexisted with him or descended—deteriorated—from him became a proxy for the moral and political status of exploited tribes. The abolitionist Thomas Clarkson — , whose work inspired William Wilberforce — , pressed the climate hypothesis to explain race, even arguing for an olive-skinned Adam to make the necessary transformations to white and black easier and remove the primacy of the white tribe.

Slavery loomed large in these conversations. The practice seems to have been accepted as a part of the natural order for as long as there have been human tribes.

Many cultures believed slave classes or castes to be as natural as the divine right of kings to govern or the right of fathers to give their daughters to political allies. Aristotle taught that some humans were by nature slaves with specifically slavish characteristics. And even the Bible spoke without condemnation of slavery as though it were legitimate. Abolitionists like Wilberforce in England and William Lloyd Garrison in the United States were innovative in claiming slavery violated basic Christian principles.

Their opposition, however, provided ever more disturbing reasons— some of them biblical—for why black Africans were appropriately enslaved. And, I note reluctantly, even the most progressive abolitionists did not argue—or believe, as near as we can tell—that all humans were equal. The controversy about slavery is striking in the degree to which it was adjudicated by appealing to the story of Adam and Eve.

From the first century to the present day, countless Christians have supposed that God set up a social order that we must preserve.

Unfortunately, the biblical basis for this claim is so ambiguous, piecemeal, and contradictory that exegetes can seemingly find whatever they want in the Bible. The status of the black man was no exception.


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When the United States went to war over slavery, both sides claimed a biblical mandate for their position. In the "History of Jamaica" , a Christian apologist for slavery appears to have attacked the climate hypothesis because he found polygenesis more congenial to his belief that Africans deserved to be enslaved. Thus the black African cannot be a part of the human race; he must have been separately created.

And here the conclusion becomes chilling. If the Negro was neither descended from Adam nor part of a human tribe created by God, then what was he? When was he created? The only option—and what a convenient one it was—is that, like the animals, the Negro was one of the creatures God placed in Eden to serve Adam. Furthermore, if they were examples of creatures that died long before Adam, how did their deaths fit with the doctrines of creation and the fall in terms of an originally good earth cursed with corruption?

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This meant no predation in the animal kingdom, harmony amongst living organisms, and the absence of death in the world. By the late 18th-century, however, geological views were changing concerning the source of the rocks.


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If the layers were actually evidence of long ages rather than a global judgment, what were the fossils evidence of? This question was taken up by naturalist Georges Cuvier in France. As the director of the Museum of Natural History, he had amassed the largest collection of fossils in the world and was considered the foremost expert on extinct creatures—particularly their unique forms. Cuvier thought the extraordinary design of fossilized animals meant they had originally been created by God in the same form in which they had been buried.

He looked at the different species found in successive layers of rock and argued that God progressively created creatures at various times and places in the world, all separated by long ages and great distances. These long ages ended with catastrophic extinction events in which large numbers of species died out. The catastrophes were followed by God starting over again creating many new species in different places all over the earth. This cyclical process occurred dozens of times until man was finally created in the most recent creation event.

The fossils, therefore, were additional evidence of an old earth. As regards the notion that the children of believers ought to be sent off to rub mental and spiritual shoulders with the world, in their education, Abraham Kuyper has written well:. Christ has certainly declared, that between His followers and the world there is a difference as of sheep and wolves. They cannot rest, until your child is become part of the world.

For this reason Jesus calls them wolves. They want to make your child like unto themselves, identify him with themselves, and thus spiritually devour him. And so the lesson is this. First keep your children with Jesus and under the shadow of His wings educate them until they are ready. And when they are ready, send them out into the world, let them out among wolves, but as sheep, i.

About Debra Chew

Arising as it does out of God's covenant, the Christian school is strictly and exclusively controlled by the parents and other like-minded members of the covenant of God. They make up the governing board and association. Their authority assures that the antithesis will be maintained in the school—in the appointment of the teachers; in the admittance of students; in the actual teaching; and in the life of the school, generally. The authority of the State must be kept out.

To this end, all financial aid from the State must be refused. Also, membership in the governing association and board must be limited to those who are in agreement with the covenantal-antithetical nature of Christian education. Reformed, Christian education is threatened in our day by giving the direction of the schools over to those who dissent from the very basis of covenant education, i. Reformed, parental control safeguards antithetical instruction in the classroom.

The Religion of Naturalism

A good, Christian school teaches the truth and exposes the lie. All instruction is based on and faithful to Holy Scripture, the inspired, infallible Word of God, as the doctrines of Scripture are set forth and explained in the Reformed Confessions. The Word of God in creation is the subject of the teaching in the Christian school—science, history, math, and all the other areas of knowledge; but this Word is seen in the light of Scripture and is taught in harmony with Scripture. This is essential.